Daydreaming on Paper
 
January 2006
Your Creative Manifesto
 

Well, we are one week into 2006; do you know where your New Year's Resolutions are?

If you are anything at all like me, you lost your fresh new resolve the first time you woke up to freezing temperatures and realized that you would rather spend the next half hour burrowed under the new quilt that you got for Christmas than flinging yourself about under the tutelage of the crazed-cheerleaders-on-crack featured on your "Buns of Steel" DVD. In the majority of cases, this lapse in willpower is no big deal. Those lofty goals were more akin to wishful thinking anyway, and they usually represented somebody else's agenda. However, what about the goals that we really do want to keep? Where do we find the motivation to make the changes that we want and need to make in our lives? The answer, unsurprisingly, lies within. Each of us is our own impetus for change.

As with most things in life, keeping the focus necessary to modify behaviours, routines, and habits is a lot easier said than done. We have good intentions, but quotidian chaos acts as an effective smoke screen, causing us to lose sight of our dreams. Fortunately, those of us who keep diaries and journals have some ammunition against this phenomenon. We have at our fingertips a powerful tool for uncovering the shape we want our lives to take and channeling our actions toward this effort. Our goals can be big or small; idealistic or pragmatic; humanitarian or personal. Whatever they are, we can use our private writing sessions to help us achieve them. Through writing, we can clarify our intentions and remind ourselves of our motivations.

In this article, we will focus on creative aspirations. Why? Because I have found that when I do not tend my creative garden, all other areas of my life suffer as well. Creativity is not limited to the act of drawing or painting or putting words on paper. When we exercise our imagination and flex our creative muscles by designing a costume or by playing the guitar, we sweep the cobwebs off of our brain cells and develop mental agility that can be applied to every other aspect of our lives. Cultivate your creative self and you will have more inner resources with which to deal with anything that comes your way.

The Creative Manifesto

Simply put, a manifesto is a declaration of your motives and intentions. It is not the same as a goal, although the two concepts do feed each other. Goals are concrete; they address what we want to do. A manifesto addresses the issue of why. While it is certainly important to have goals and to take practical steps toward achieving them, it is equally important to know why those steps are worth taking in the first place. Let's say that you are a dancer and that one of your dance goals is to perform an entirely improvised piece. To that end, you have decided that you need to set aside one hour each day for your dance practice. For the first few days or weeks, you dutifully put in your time in the studio. Then, one day you come home after an exhausting day at work and realize that the absolute last thing that you want to do is to put on your dance shoes. At that moment, it feels as if the only activity that you have the mental energy for is collapsing into bed. How do you find the discipline to change into your leotard instead? Along similar lines, what if you do manage to consistently log your one hour of dance time per day, but find yourself practicing set choreographies or relying on instructional videos instead of experimenting with new combinations? How do you ensure that your efforts are aligned with your goal? The answer is: direction.

In his books, cleaning and time management guru Don Aslett always stresses the importance of having direction in one's life. His philosophy is that when we have a specific target, we produce better results. The creative manifesto provides us with that target - a reminder of how we want to use our creative efforts to enrich our lives and why. It becomes the funnel by which we gather our scattered energies and focus them on the activities that will get us where we want to be.

So, how does one go about writing a creative manifesto? All it takes is a willingness to answer a few questions. Grab your journal and spend a few minutes (or a few days) in written exploration of each question. Your answers can be as detailed or as abbreviated as you need for them to be. Whether you do them in list form or freewriting style, the important thing is to identify what you want and why you want it.

Step One: Reflect on your creative life as it is right now.

  • What is working in your creative life? What is not?
  • What activities and/or people continue to inspire you?
  • What activities and/or people previously provided you with inspiration, but now do not? Why are they still in your life?
  • Is there anything in your life that serves no purpose (timewasters, unfulfilling activities, busywork)? Why do you engage in these activities?
  • Are you putting your talents to good use?
  • Do you express yourself creatively on a regular basis? Do you have ample time to indulge in your hobbies and interests? If the answer to these questions is "no", why not?
  • Do you have adequate time for reflection and contemplation?
  • What are your creative accomplishments from last year?
  • What areas of your particular creative interests would you like to explore this year?
  • Are you happy with your current level of creative activity?

Step Two: Uncover your motivations.

  • Who are you doing this for?
  • What, ultimately, is the point of your creative pursuits?
  • What is your objective? What personal benefit do you want to gain from creative activity? (Note: "benefit" can be anything from financial gain to spiritual enlightenment to increased self esteem and much, much more.)
  • Why is creative expression important to you?
  • What is the big picture? What role do your particular creative interests play in your master plan for your life?

Step Three: Put it all together.

After you have finished steps one and two, put your answers aside for a few days. Go on with your life, and let your subconscious take over. This ruminative period will help to crystallize your creative vision. When you are ready, go back and read over your answers. You should then have a clear idea of your creative intentions and aspirations. Highlight or underline the major themes. Then, on a new page, write them out in sentence form. Continuing with the previous example of the dancer, let's say that your work in steps one and two reveal that you view creativity as a spiritual practice and that dance is your particular brand of spiritual expression. You realize, then, that although you recognize the importance of learning techniques and practicing drills, preplanned choreographies will not feed your soul. Your creative manifesto might include something like this:

I dance in gratitude. I use music and movement as an expression of praise, and I want to share my gratitude with others.

What you want to do is to articulate your intentions and to state the reasoning behind them. You want to "state your business", so to speak, so that you can effectively get down to business. Your manifesto may end up being one sentence or twenty; whatever the final length, it will serve as a reminder of your creative purpose. As such, you will want to copy the final version in a format that you will refer to often: type or handwrite it onto pretty paper; create a collage around it; create a simple html page for it and make that your home page for your web browser; make a page for it in your planner; post it on the door of your studio. Put it in a place where its filtering influence can be felt.

Bonus Step: Take action.

Once you have your manifesto, put it to some good use. It is not enough to merely know what we want; we need to take action toward it and/or prepare ourselves for receipt of it. With that in mind, here is my challenge to you for 2006:

Do one small thing.

Using your manifesto as a guide, identify one creative goal that you would like to accomplish for this year. The goal should be something concrete and attainable - there should be a clear point at which you can check it off as done. Now, figure out what one thing you can consisently do to work toward achieving that goal. For example, if your goal is to perform an improvised piece, then your "one thing" could be to spend ten minutes each day doing freestyle dance to a piece of music. If you know that you won't have time to do it every day, you can do ten minutes every Tuesday or every Saturday morning. Length of time and frequency are less important than consistency. The point of this exercise is for you to actually do it every Tuesday or every Saturday morning in 2006 - no matter what. Perservence is the key. Just think of it as compound interest in your creativity account. At the end of the year, let me know your creative net worth.

I hope that I have given you some good tools for developing your own creative manifesto and your creative self. For your inspiration, here are a few creative intentions and resolutions from people just like you. In keeping with the true spirit of a manifesto, I would like to use this page as a place where we can all publicly declare our creative motives. If you would like to participate, simply send your declarations to me and I will add them here. Let's make 2006 our most creative year yet!

 
 

Dawn V.

 

My motto for 2006 is "Just Say No". Last year, I realized that most of my creative energy was spent for the benefit of other people, leaving little time for the projects that I wanted to do for myself. The result was creative exhaustion and resentfulness. My creative manifesto reflects the fact that I am happiest when I use my artistic skills and talents to create "my life as art". As such, I have declared a moratorium on doing creative projects for other people. This year is all about me, and my creative efforts will be for my own benefit.

 

Ruth E.

 

As it happens (rarely), I started a new journal with the New Year. My first entry:

"With this journal, it is my intention to cultivate positive mindstates.

With this journal, it is my intention to develop an appreciation of the colors I have not used in my artwork in the past [largely, oranges and yellows]."

 

Patsy T.

 

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, but I do use this time of year as a reason to examine different areas of my life and think about what I might do differently over this next year's time frame. Of course, one can do that at any time, but the New Year is a natural. It's a good time to set intentions and consider possibilities.

I think in the coming year I'm going to continue to work on what I've been working on this past year - being more diligent about daily meditation or similar activities. It is a restorative process and I need to spend more time with it.

I am going to be more closely examining what I spend my time on in coming year. I will be pulling back from some things and moving forward with some others.

My intention is to develop outside sources of income that can support me so that I can move away from working for someone else in the next few years. I intend to devote time to that regularly. That means I will have less time for other things.

I also intend to continue organizing my home as I know in the long run this will be a time saver, as well as make me feel better in my own home.

I plan to devote more energy to writing and recording in the coming year as well. I have been haphazard with that in the last few months and that cannot continue.

I will continue to host gatherings, but friends will have to step up to do that as well, or we'll have to be without. I must be judicious in the sorts of things I invite people to join me in. I have already stopped inviting people for studio play dates who don't want to create but want to watch others create. That's a worthwhile endeavor, but my studio is not the place for it.

I'm still trying to figure this balance out as I love having people over, but some things are more labor intensive than others, just as some people are more involved to be around. I am still working on the balance, but know that I cannot host everything that anyone comes up with.

 

Jodie F.

 

I, as a creative soul, will be considerate of my sensitivity, and not over-commit myself to so many projects as to lose my vision. I will exercise my imagination, I will play with crayons, and clay and fingerpaints. I will stretch my inner artist.

 

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